A Global Commemoration of Nigeria’s Diamond Anniversary

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Chiemelie Ezeobi, Rebecca Ejifoma, Ayodeji Ake Chiamaka Ozulumba and Oluwabunmi Fache, who monitored the Global Virtual Commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary, which was organised by the THISDAY/Arise Group, write that it was a potpourri of hope, resilience, assurance and prediction of better days by a legion of local and global figures

It was a virtual show. One which cut across London, Lagos and Abuja but streamed to a global audience on ARISE Play, ARISE NEWS CHANNEL, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, amongst other media channels. The event which was held to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary celebration, was organised by the THISDAY/ARISE Group.

Tagged “The Global Virtual Commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary“, the six-hour virtual show lasted for six hours. In between speeches and goodwill messages were a melting pot of music, art and fashion shows. The show was anchored by the duo of Arise TV’s Ojy Okpe and Charles Aniagolu.

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The global virtual commemoration of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary was powered by Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Polaris Bank and Bet9ja, among others.

Potpourri of Music, Fashion

Given that music is one of the biggest exports Nigeria boasts of, it was only fitting that the best of the best in the Nigerian music industry graced the occasion. From Wizkid to Davido, Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Tuface Boy, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Dare Art-Alade and Lola Rae, they all brought different flavours to the epoch event. Sani Danja was not left out.

For fashion, icons like Deola Sagoe, Lanre Da Silva, Tiffany Amber, Lisa Folawiyo, Odio Mimonet and newbies like Tania Omotayo graced the virtual show. Kenneth Ize was also not left out. With Nigerian music blaring in the background, the models for the different fashion houses strutted down the runway.

Promise of Reforms

Prior to introducing President Muhammadu Buhari, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY Newspapers and ARISE Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, said the president promised a legacy by political reform; economic reform beginning with the regulation and reducing inequality in the economy.

Salute to Courage
In his address, President Buhari stressed that clocking 60 was of no means a small feat, especially with the daunting challenges, culminating in the civil war.

“Our diamond age is by no means a small achievement. We must salute the courage and painstaking efforts of our founding fathers to bequeath a country of great promises. We also pay tribute to all those who in search for a better Nigeria made supreme sacrifices with their lives.

“The vagaries of life’s journey, are often filled with great dangers necessitating the effectiveness of consistent innovations and creativity, to be able to manage our individual ambition and destination in many ways, and to maximise the collective benefits of our common humanity.

“Our politics, and our collective inability dread above several of our fault lines have been critical and fundamental to Nigeria’s imperfect journey in the last 60 years. Some of these concerns and indeed challenges of independence, remain regrettably, so even today. As we mentioned, this does not in any way diminish the achievements of our country.

“In the last 60 years, the fact remains, however, that none of our challenges has impacted more negatively. As we celebrate this diamond age today (Thursday), we must never lose sight of the untravelled route to Nigeria’s manifest destiny.

“We offer this to millions of our people who have continued to invest hopes and huge expectations in their leaders and national elites. We also owe this to Africa and the black race, to enhance the dignity and self esteem of the black people throughout the world.”

Call to Unity

For the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, unity is key. According to him, with unity, Nigeria would be returned to its golden past.

Stressing that the feats achieved in past were borne out of unity, he charged Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of togetherness and collective thinking, adding that the support of communities, individuals, private sector, religious leaders, traditional rulers is needed.

Projection of Greatness

While commending Nigeria for the achievement recorded despite daunting challenges, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and projected that the nation would be one of the greatest nations on earth.

However, he posited that even with the two key problems of Nigeria- bad policies and bad governance, there is hope that the country would overcome these challenges.

Reminiscence of Sovereignty

Reminiscing over how Nigeria got its independence, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industries, Alhaji Ahmed Joda (Rtd.) said the moment, Nigeria became a sovereign nation, it was a mixture of million of hearts, plenty of emotions and the hopes and expectations that were ahead.

Also in his address, former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, reminisced about how passionate they were as Nigerians. According to him, after studying abroad, they turned down offers of citizenships just to return home because they believed in the Nigerian dream.

“We had world recognised teaching hospitals, airlines, shipping lines. Some of the best brains in the world were Nigerians. We were called the African Giant and we believed it. Our vision was for Nigeria to reach the sky and the stars.”

Delivering on the SDGs

The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, in her speech, addressed the issue of Nigeria endeavouring to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, adding that the support of the UN is guaranteed.

Noting that Nigeria missed it when it failed to develop the rural areas, she said: “My humble reflection is the missed opportunity of investing in our local level of government, where our communities and our people, the diamonds in the rough, reside.

“My hope is that we will find it in ourselves to rise up against what divides us and look for the strands and the fabric of nature that bind us together; that we find the wisdom and the courage to embark upon a new journey of discovery that will see the young people of this great nation shape its future. That we may all rise to our aspirations in peace, in unity in dignity and respect for each other, leaving no one behind.”

Charge to Youths

In his charge to youths, the immediate past Senate President and former Governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki said: “Today, providing for the basic welfare of our young people is a challenge. Why do I focus on young people? Simply because they are our future. It is they who in 40 years’ time will be the august individuals celebrating our centenary independence anniversary. Indeed, the greatest resource this great country has today is, to my mind, our dynamic, resourceful, and ebullient young people who presently constitutes more than 50 per cent of the population. So, numerically speaking, the country is already theirs.

“If we establish the foundation for a future in which our youths can drive Nigeria forward, we definitely will have a strong chance of rebuilding our country. Then, we can perhaps at long last realise the dreams of our founding fathers.

“The issues of security, underdevelopment, lack of unity and the negative forces which propel the recent surging demand for the disintegration of our country cannot be defeated if we fail to advance the right capacity building and utilisation policies and programmes for Nigeria’s youths.”

Creating Enabling Environment

For the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, one of the most crucial priorities of his government is creating an enabling environment for the youth to attain their individual potential.

Noting that his government has recognised the critical role of the youth in the development of the country, he said opportunities will be created for them to achieve their goals.

Promotion of Merit, Rule of Law

Harping that Nigeria has the capacity to be better especially where the promotion of merit and the rule of law are encouraged, Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, also called for focus on a new national discourse where merit superintends over diversity.

Embracing Patriotism

Delving into the issue of patriotism, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, said primordial loyalty and sentiments have subsumed under an all-embracing national ethos of patriotism, commitment, honesty, integrity and justice.

Urging Nigerians to shun division, he said “the times we live in call for unshakeable faith, courage, and optimism and our ability to build a country of our collective dream and become the envy of other nations. Yes! It has no been an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination.

“It is not debatable that we are yet to fully realised our collective aspirations as a united prosperous country, where primordial loyalty and sentiments have subsumed under an all-embracing national etho of patriotism, commitment, honesty, integrity and justice. Nevertheless, we must appreciate the progress we have made. I believe we can be proud of how far we have come as a country.”

Adjusting Gaps in the System

On nation building, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, posited that to achieve a perfect union, correcting impediments to progress, adjusting the gaps in the system and believing that Nigeria is more than the sum of its parts, are the way out.

Admitting that over the years, Nigeria had grappled with difficult challenges like depressing civil war, disruptions of democratic systems, painful recessions, and horrible epidemics, some of which seemed certain to break the ties that bind the country, he said none could break the resilient Nigerian spirit.

Stressing that our problems should not define us, he noted “yes, there are ample reasons to be dissatisfied with our seeming inability to turn our huge potential to visible success. True, we are not where we ought to be. But the irony of the Nigerian story is that while her inadequacies are apparent to all, her progress is difficult to ignore either. To suggest that Nigerian has not made progress is to declare that the works of her heroes and heroines are in vain”.

Right Policies

Former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in his address, said “We need the right policies that will make us stronger and undivided. Those who think that dividing the country is the solution to our challenges, will soon realise that division will lead to further divisions because there will always be people who will claim they are not satisfied.

“It is my hope that Nigeria will have peace and develop a true national identity and see each other as brothers and sisters. It is my hope that this country will realise in my lifetime, the potential of being a truly great third world country that will rise to become one of the first world countries.”

Spirit of Optimism, Innovation, Creativity

“Our country has known many turbulent times. We have gone through wars, economic recessions, terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout it all, we have come out strong resilient and optimistic. Even when times are hard, Nigerians are known never to give up,” former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said.

She added, “I salute this spirit of optimism exuberance, innovation and creativity. I salute our young people who embodied these attributes. No matter how tough the times are, I know Nigeria and Nigerians would overcome. My own love for our country and the pride I have in being Nigerian would never disappear or dissipate. I hope you cherish your own love for our country.”

Investment in Critical Infrastructure

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said though the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted on the federal government’s revenue, it has, however, continued to invest in critical infrastructure to ensure continuous growth hinged on programmes and projects that would enhance employment of the large percentage of youths.

Keeping Hope Alive

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, urged Nigerians to keep hope alive and remain resilience so as to overcome national challenges.

Harping on the Positives

Despite the daunting challenges, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari, would rather Nigerians harp on the positives.

He noted that though there are lots of negativities in the country, the positives far outweigh the negatives for Nigeria, adding that the nation is on the right trajectory under the present administration.

Revisiting Ideals of Past Leaders

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, charged Nigerians to rededicate themselves to those ideals, which the nation’s founding fathers paved as a way for activities that harnessed the creativity and ingenuity of Nigerians. He said those ideals once helped Nigeria to become a great nation.

He said: “Our leaders fostered inclusive growth by investing in the areas that yielded job creation and greater economic growth. In the light of these investments and efforts of our founding fathers, they were able to turn our dreams of a greater Nigeria into reality.”

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic further amplified the challenges faced by the nation, he however stated that out of every crisis, comes opportunities, adding that the 60th anniversary as an independent nation has afforded an opportunity to reflect on the journey so far.

Thriving in Unity

President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina said “Together and united, we shall thrive and we shall prosper and together we shall shine, together, we shall excel and bring honour to our land.”

Six Decades of Achievement

Noting that if Nigerians unite and ensure the indivisibility of the country, Nigeria will record even greater achievements, the founder of Zenith Bank, Jim Ovia, said Nigeria has achieved so much in the past 60 years in the areas of education, enterprises, entertainment and many other sectors.

Population as Most Valuable Resource

Managing Director and CEO of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Olusegun Agbaje, said the most valuable resource that Nigeria boasts of would be its population, which placed it seventh largest nation in in the world, adding that with the vibrant youths who form 60 per cent of that population and the untapped natural resources, the next six decades will be better off for Nigeria and Nigerians.

Reflections for the Future

Managing Director and CEO of Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe, called on Nigerians to reflect on the future of the country, adding that though Nigerians have succeeded in many fields of human endeavour, there is so much more work to be done

“I think today is also a time for us to reflect on national unity, national security and a day for all of us as Nigerians to make a full commitment to ourselves that we will work together to make our country the greatest country in the continent,” he said.

Indomitable Nigerian Spirit

The Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu, praised the indomitable Nigerian spirit, adding that Nigeria is the beacon of hope for the black race given that its citizens are extremely talented, intelligent, hardworking, brilliant, dogged and a creative nation.

These attributes, he said, have continued to underscore the very outstanding accomplishments of our various compatriots at home and abroad.

Responsible Leadership

While citing the pivotal role First Bank Nigeria Limited has played in the overall socio-economic development of Nigeria, its CEO, Mr. Adesola Adeduntan, commended President Buhari for providing the nation with responsible leadership.

Making Nigeria Great Again

Stressing that the future is great, President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said only Nigerians can make Nigeria great again.

Reiterating that Nigeria has surmounted challenges since independence he said: “The future is great and we should have hope in our country Nigeria.

“Nigeria as a country is blessed with arable land, good climate, mineral resources. With the population of the youths of Nigeria, the country must focus on agriculture to grow the economy”.

Sustaining Growth Trajectory

To sustain the growth trajectory of Nigeria, the Chairman/CEO BUA Plc, Samad Ishaku-Rabiu, reiterated the call for the unity in line with the vision of our founding fathers.

He said: “Our founding fathers built us a nation, one that is bound in freedom, peace and unity. As citizens and leaders today, we must do all that we can to build on that vision, sustain the legacy and then pass it to the future generation.”

Endowment of Talent, Resilience

Founder, BET9ja, Mr Ayo Ojuroye, described Nigeria as blessed with so much talent, natural resources, with Nigerians that are hardworking, resilient, humorous and determined, an endowment he stressed will make Nigeria great.

Although the commemoration might have come and gone, the reflections and predictions by policy makers and diplomats leave a trail of hope that must not be snuffed.